California is one step closer to passing the nation's most ambitious regulations on toxic substances in consumer products. While environmentalists continue to petition for the regulations, industrial leaders are expressing concerns about the consequences such expedient and severe change will have on the economy. What are your thoughts on government imposed green chemistry regulations?
To the extent that the toxicity aspects of the chemicals used in consumer products are well established (and peer-reviewed), it would seem to be in the interest of society as a whole to find alternatives. However, "toxicity", "chemicals", "natural", and "green" are loaded words these days, but most of the toxins in the world are natural, not man-made. Should we ban Botox, which some people choose to inject for enhancing their appearance, since a tablespoon of its ingredient, botulinum, is enough to kill the entire world's population? Should we ban apples, as they contain cyanide, known in one form as the Zyklon B used in the Nazi gas chambers? Or peanuts, due to the possibility of aflatoxin? Or medicines to treat Parkinson's disease, as they contain Solanine, found in the deadly nightshade plant?
My point is not that there aren't toxic ingredients in many consumer products, but that many toxins are tolerable in low doses, and even beneficial when used as medicines. My concern with broad-brush government regulation is that it may miss these subtleties. The use of alternative materials (chemicals) in consumer products should certainly be encouraged, though, when toxic aspects of the chemicals in question are credible but not sufficiently understood.